By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 15, 2009; A12
A federal judge ruled Monday that the government may continue to detain a 28-year-old Yemeni at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Musa'ab Al-Madhwani has been held at the facility since October 2002 on allegations that he was a member of al-Qaeda. Ruling from the bench, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan said that the government had met its burden in proving the accusations but that he did not think Madhwani was dangerous.
"There is nothing in the record now that he poses any greater threat than those detainees who have already been released," the judge said, noting that Madhwani has been a model prisoner over the past seven years.
The military holds 210 detainees at the Guantanamo Bay facility. At one point, there were more than 600.
Hogan's ruling came in a federal lawsuit brought by Madhwani that challenged his confinement under the centuries-old legal doctrine of habeas corpus. The government had alleged that Madhwani traveled to Pakistan to join al-Qaeda, trained at an al-Qaeda camp, traveled with al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and engaged in a firefight with Pakistani authorities before his arrest.
The government's case relied almost entirely on Madhwani's statements to interrogators and to military officials during tribunals and review boards at Guantanamo Bay, Hogan said.
Hogan said he did not consider the statements to interrogators as evidence against Madhwani because they were "tainted by abusive interrogation techniques," especially after he was first turned over to U.S. authorities in 2002. He was held at a series of prisons before being sent to Guantanamo Bay, Hogan said.
However, the judge said he did not believe that Madhwani's statements during military hearings at Guantanamo Bay were tainted because they were given years after the alleged abuse. At those hearings, Madhwani admitted to training with a rifle and handgun at an al-Qaeda camp and seeing the terrorist group's leader, Osama bin Laden, one day, records show.
Hogan said those statements and others supported the government's case that Madhwani was a member of al-Qaeda and could be detained.
The prisoner's attorneys had argued that Madhwani's statements to military officials at tribunals and review boards at Guantanamo Bay were contaminated because he was still worried about upsetting his captors.
"He was threatened that if he changed his story, he would be sent back to a place worse than at the dark prison," said one of his attorneys, Darold W. Killmer, referring to a facility where Madhwani was first held and aggressively interrogated.
Madhwani testified during a hearing before Hogan via a secure video link to the prison, the judge said. The judge said Madhwani's allegations about abusive interrogations were credible and were not challenged by government lawyers.
Scores of detainees are contesting their confinements in the District's federal court. Since last year, judges have ordered the government to free 31 people while allowing it to continue holding nine others, including Madhwani.